Children’s Hospital, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center dedicated

By: By Tom Dermody

With gratitude to God and repeated admiration for the “unwavering faith and commitment” of The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, the new Children’s Hospital of Illinois and OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria was blessed and dedicated in historic ceremonies July 16.

“Let us ask for God’s blessing on all who will be patients here,” said Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, before leading a team of nearly a dozen clergy in sprinkling holy water throughout the 440,000-square-foot facility.

The dedication took place outside the entrance to the $280 million expansion, known during its planning and three years of construction as The Milestone Project. The ceremonies highlighted a week that saw nearly 13,000 people tour the facility in a series of public and private events.

Last Friday, about 200 invited guests were seated beneath large tents as religious, political, and medical dignitaries reflected on the occasion’s significance.

Bishop Jenky proclaimed the eight-story facility “the heart of the heartland.” Within its walls, he said, Christ’s love will be made present for generations to come, especially “for all of the little ones.”

He and other speakers had special words of praise for The Sisters of the
Third Order of St. Francis. Noting the day also marked the 133rd anniversary of the religious community’s founding, Bishop Jenky said the Sisters and those who support their mission “live the Gospel” and are “a special reflection of Christ among us.”

Sister Judith Ann Duvall, OSF, chairperson of OSF Healthcare System, called the dedication “a new chapter in our history” and said the addition “will enable us to remain firm in our commitment to serve this community and surrounding communities ‘with the greatest care and love.'”

“God promised that He would always provide for us, for whatever was needed to accomplish what He asks of us. And He has, in abundant ways,” said Sister Judith Ann.

“I look out at all of you who share the joy of this moment with our Sisters and have shared our journey with us and I say, with the deepest sincerity of my heart: ‘Thank you. You are God-sent and a precious gift from God to us. You are family and we treasure you.”

The complete text of Sister Judith Ann’s remarks are printed on the back page of this commemorative section.

The new building on the OSF Saint Francis campus near downtown Peoria brings the various services of the Children’s Hospital of Illinois into one facility and provides an updated and expanded emergency department.

Highly visible to passers-by on Interstate 74, it also features more intensive care beds for both children and adults, offers expanded surgery and cardiac care facilities, houses the Jim and Trudy Maloof St. Jude Midwest Affiliate, and emphasizes family-friendly surroundings in all private rooms.

Among the guest speakers at the dedication ceremonies was Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. A Peoria native who was raised just a few blocks from the building site, LaHood served on the advisory board of Children’s Hospital of Illinois about 15 years ago.

During his board service, LaHood recalled, “we fought very hard to get our own sign up” when the Children’s Hospital was spread among several buildings.

Looking at the massive new structure gleaming under the summer sun behind him, LaHood added “that’s a pretty good looking sign up there.”
He called children “our greatest treasure” and said the facility reflects the region’s care for and investment in them.

The former U.S. Congressman also noted the current national debate over health care policies. Crediting the leadership of the Sisters for bringing “the best health care anywhere in America” to the region, LaHood added that “there has never been a debate about access to health care in central Illinois because of the Sisters” and their commitment to serve those in the greatest need.

LaHood ended his comments with a phrase echoed several times during the morning: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!”

Other speakers included:

— Keith Steffen, president and CEO of OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, who traced the history of project and applauded all involved in it. The Sisters, he noted, “do things according to God’s will and timing and that works out best.” He also noted that the magnificent building is “worthless” without the “community of caregivers” that bring its mission to life.

— Dr. Denise Mammolito, the first female president of the OSF Saint Francis Medical Center professional staff, who said the facility “will allow the best doctors to deliver the best health care in this community.”

— Msgr. Michael Bliss, director of pastoral care, who prayed that the spirit of the pioneer Sisters help make the project “a house of love and charity.” He said the founding Sisters discovered as they began their healing ministry that it was Christ they were caring for as they bathed the sick and bound their wounds, comforted them during the night and accompanied them while dying.

Also speaking were Andrea and Rob Raycraft, whose son Will has spent much time in Children’s Hospital as he endured four life-saving open-heart surgeries; Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, and Children’s Hospital of Illinois President Paul Kramer.

Sister Diane Marie McGrew, OSF, president of OSF Healthcare System, gave a Scripture reading.

Music was provided by the Peoria Area Civic Chorale and its Youth Chorus. Tours and light refreshments followed a ribbon cutting ceremony. Guests received a “Shine Lily” to plant courtesy of Angel Scentiments and the Oedewalt triplets — Deanna, Debra, and Denise — who were among the first patients of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

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